The Pope, Africa, And Condom Controversy

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The Roman Catholic Pope Benedict XVI made headlines this week by denouncing condoms as a way to prevent HIV/AIDS while on his first visit to Africa.

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Photo: Jacek Cieplinski (Jacek.NL on Flickr)

The Pope created controversy recently with his comments about condoms and HIV prevention.

Although it might seem like we talk about condoms too often, there is something to be said for reaffirming the power and practicality of what a simple piece of latex can do for the world.

Not only does it prevent pregnancy and most sexually transmitted infections, it can also be an important part of female sexual empowerment, family planning, and sexual decision making for both partners involved in a sexual relationship.

It’s about safety and protection.

This blog isn’t about religion or personal faith, which is an individual choice and one that I personally respect very much. What I don’t understand as a part of that religious, spiritual space are leaders within these religions ignoring scientific evidence that can literally save people’s lives in favor of moral judgments on behavior.

The Pope and Condoms

The Pope is visiting Africa for the first time this week as the head of the Catholic church. He has reaffirmed the church’s pan on all forms of contraception, although he has “assembled a panel of scientists and theologians to consider the narrow question of whether to allow condoms for married couples” in order to help curb the spread of HIV and AIDS.

One step, but still ignoring some basic issues such as ability to give consent for issues around sexual activity and contraception within marriage, access to condoms for married couples or even single people who also want to prevent disease or pregnancy, and a host of other issues.

The Pope has also stated that condoms won’t fix the AIDS crisis in Africa. This might be true, but his statements reflect the attitudes that condoms cause more sex, not the idea that AIDS is an sociocultural issue as much as a medical one and issues like poverty, education, and female empowerment play as much or more of role than the availability of use of condoms.

More On The Pope’s Trip To Africa

Food for thought. It should be interesting to watch the rest of the Pope’s trip to Africa. You can read more about why the Pope’s visit to Africa is impacting women there here - a very well written blog post on Akimbo, the International Women’s Health Coalition blog.

Natalie Ingraham (M.P.H.)

is a recent graduate of Indiana University and is now pursuing a Ph.D. in Medical Sociology at University of California San Francisco.
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